LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — It’s a weekend dust-up that has youth basketball fans talking.
A fundraising basketball tournament for fifth and sixth grade boys turned into a fight on Saturday. Witnesses told FOX4 it climaxed when a referee punched a coach.
A man in the stands at Saturday’s game said it was a wild sight, and there were dozens of kids who saw it all.
The Lee’s Summit School District confirmed that tournament, which was held at Lee’s Summit West High School, was meant to be a fundraiser for youth sports.
Photos, which were sent to FOX4 by a witness, show a referee being separated from an assistant coach from one team, which is known as Together.
The school district said that assistant coach had already been charged with warnings and technical fouls. Then the witness said the referee landed a hard right hand across the coach’s face. A witness to the fracas said he’s never seen an official act so poorly.
A spokesperson for Lee’s Summit police said neither man pressed charges, and no one was charged with a crime.
Violence involving sports referees has been a bipartisan focus at Missouri’s statehouse in Jefferson City. State Rep. Jerome Barnes (D-Raytown) and Rep. Brad Pollitt (R-Sedalia) are driving two separate bills mean to provide more protection for referees and umpires.
There’s a national shortage of officials, and thousands of youth sporting events have been canceled since there’s been no one to referee many of them.
“The idea is to heighten awareness of it, bring it to the prosecutors’ attention, bring it to the judges’ attention that hey, if you hit a referee, we want you to take this serious than just a simple assault,” Barnes said.
“Is it of epidemic proportions? Not at this point yet. But it’s headed in that direction, and I think we need to pass a bill that shows the men and women that referee our contests that the state legislature and the state of Missouri is behind them,” Pollitt said.